Celtics Extend Jaylen Brown
The Boston Celtics extended Jaylen Brown’s rookie contact prior to the rookie extension deadline Monday. The University of California Berkeley star was the 3rd pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and a 2016-2017 All-Rookie team member. Brown’s extension is worth up to $115 Million (M) and means he’ll remain a Celtic through the 2022-2023 season. The deal also comes just over 48 hours before the 2019-2020 season opener Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Brown averaged 13 points, 4.2 assists and 1.4 rebounds per game on shooting splits of 46.5/34.4/65.8 last season. Brown had a PER of 13.5 and averaged 0.9 steals and 0.4 blocks, which correlated nicely to his 1.3 turnovers per game. The shooting guard is known for his defensive ceiling, and Team USA coaches praised those efforts during Brown’s FIBA World Cup campaign this past summer. Brown’s extension calls for $103M in guarantees and $12M of incentives, including MVP, DPoY, All-NBA teams, game and playoff thresholds.
Crunching the Numbers
Brown’s contract calls for a base salary of $23M and will count for $24M against the cap with $1M incentives. Brown becomes the Celtics third-highest player behind point guard Kemba Walker ($34.4) and shooting forward Gordon Hayward ($34.2), both max players. Brown’s contract increases by a few million dollars each year until expiration, and will count for between 16-25% of the Celtics salary cap from 2021-2023.
I wrote here about the ways in which the Boston Celtics could potentially sign both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. In reality, the Celtics don’t need to restructure Hayward’s contract. All Boston has to do is wait for Hayward’s contract to expire after the 2020-2021 season, the same year Jayson Tatum’s rookie deal expires. The 2012-2022 NBA salary cap will be ~$125M with a luxury tax threshold of ~$151M. The Celtics will have plenty of money to offer Tatum. They’ll have anywhere from $30-50M in cap space entering the 2021-2022 season, depending on club/player options and future rookie deals.
Celtics Value Improvement
One could argue Brown has regressed since the 2017-2018 season, when he and Tatum led the Celtics to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. They would be correct, as Brown improved in only two areas in 2018-2019: Two-point and free throw shooting, both of which by a mere 0.22% and 0.14%, respectively. One could also rest some of that blame at the feet of head coach Brad Stevens, who started Brown in 70 of 70 games played in 2017-2018, only to start Brown in only 25 of 74 games played in 2018-2019. Clearly those game numbers reflect Gordon Hayward’s absence and subsequent return to the starting lineup following his devastating leg injury to begin the 2017-2018 season. Regardless, the negative effects were obvious.
The other side of the argument is Brown’s age (23-years old on opening night), his ceiling on both sides of the court, his athleticism and the value of his extension. Even if Brown earns all $115M over four years, the average is $28.75M. That is less than comparable player Khris Middleton’s $30.6M annual salary. Considering the salary cap will rise to $131M by the last year of Brown’s contract, his $28M salary cap hit could be $20M less than a hypothetical max contract of ~$48.5M, assuming the current standard max contract of ~35% of the total salary cap. In other words, $25M for a player that won’t anchor the Boston Celtics for years seems steep until you calculate Brown’s ceiling over what the Celtics could be paying him. Jaylen Brown’s extension could turn out to be a bargain.